Senator Warner, Please Don’t Think You Can Protect Me from My Ignorance

I read an article in the NY Times this morning about Twitter’s presentation to the US Senate yesterday where they stated that only 200 false accounts were linked to the alleged Russian influence over the 2016 US presidential election. In essence, Twitter is claiming that just this small number of accounts were compromised. Senators were skeptical about this claim and protested that the company must do more to investigate the possible breach.

Yes. There is no question that corporate ethics come into play.

Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia, who seems to be a well-meaning representative is asking that more be done. He said, “This raises at an even greater level the necessity that the American public has the ability to know when they are seeing a political ad, who’s behind it–particularly if it is being sponsored by foreign agents.”

What I see when I read this is a request for permission on behalf of the American people to continue their abdication of intellect. While I don’t mind the Senator asking for greater transparency, I don’t think the public is entitled to a “get out of jail free card” when it comes to evaluating the things we read on the internet–or anywhere. I get that his intentions are good, but he’s way off track. We are still responsible for how we take in information and interpret it.

Of course I want corporations to behave ethically.

I also acknowledge that we don’t know what is ethical in this situation. Twitter and bots and the easy access to political influence through these tools is new and there is no manual.

So then what?

I would rather see Senator Warner advocate for critical thinking instead of pretending that this new paradigm–one where bots tweet, and misinformation is as cheap as water used to be–is going to go away. To me this is a call to arms for education, debate, knowing how to ask questions, and perhaps more critically, how to evaluate answers.

This starts with every one of us, when we say “no” to blindly and mindlessly repeating so-called news. It means things like checking Snopes or Vmyths and also noticing whether the headline you just clicked on makes your blood pressure rise unnecessarily. It means slowing down, and fact checking. It means vetting your sources.

It also means supporting a liberal arts education, scientific research, and creative pursuit.

It means allowing space for students (which is just a fancy word for “humans”) to fail, because after all, from failure comes new learning, and a kind of critical awareness that can alert us to the times when something is amiss.

Now, I am not saying Twitter is off the hook here, but they could do their own critical thinking and come up with a code of ethics that they can stand behind.

Then it’s on us to decide if we are down with the Twitter code or not.


Thank You Dear Ones! aka My Friends’ Resources for Handling Anger

Last week, I posted on Facebook about dealing with anger.

I am very much a “make lemonade” kind of person, but I do get caught in negative thinking sometimes. Lately, I’ve been focused on how to release myself from that.

So, I asked my Facebook community to help. Here’s the original question:

Here’s a serious issue I could use your help with: I want to rid myself of negative thinking. I don’t mean “stop being angry” since anger is just a feeling to be felt.

Rather, I want to stop sitting in it, and especially, directing it at people.
Do you have any techniques that you have used to do this yourself?

I’m down with a lot of the whys and wherefores, I have an amazing team of “trusted advisors” aka friends, I have a new therapist, I’ve been exercising, and I believe in the philosophies around love and compassion. At this moment, I am looking for really tactical advice that will help me in the moment.

Thank you.

I was just about bowled over with the responses I got. They ranged from the most simple (“smile so you get the endorphin release”) to the overhaul-your-life kind of answer (“let’s talk about my 21 year Buddhism practice.” ) And each and every one of them was offered with love and faith in the value of the beautiful struggle of humanity.

It seems only fitting to offer them back to you.

Thanks for sharing, and for reading dear ones! And please feel free to add to this list in the comments below.

  • If you have not tried this already, take a 30-day break from news. Two people suggested this one.
  • Spend 10 minutes each morning writing. On paper. Two people suggested this one.
  • Study a healthy subject. Read up on tea or spices or scents or butterflies. Make yourself a quasi expert in something new.
  • Karma Triyana Dharmachakra: His Holiness Karmapa. This is the North American seat of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Supreme Head of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism.
  • Meditation with Sharon Salzberg is a great instructor and does lots of workshops in New York.
  • Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life, based on ACT—Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. It’s actually a workbook so it is quite practical, and provides specific techniques.
  • My father said to me once, “Always repeat the words you are about to say to yourself (out loud if possible). If you don’t like the sound of them, most other folk won’t either.” If you find yourself becoming engulfed in negative thinking, ask yourself, “Why?” If it is anger based, deal with it. Anger is not just a feeling to be experienced. It is negative activity in your psyche to the Nth degree. Overcoming anger is necessary before you can address negativity fully, because the anger undermines any “positive” perspective you can place. I assume you do not mean disappointment when you use the word “anger.” After you realize what is making you feel bad (negative), see if it can be addressed. It may be that only part of the solution is you. You may have to separate yourself from some of the people involved in your negativity, perhaps even permanently unless they change as well as you. And it might not be a “meet me halfway thing.” And always remember, drink lemonade. You can also just deal with it by living with it. Many of the folk I know who live in urban areas deal with and live with a goodly amount of negativity. They prevent it from engulfing them by recognizing what it is and incorporating it into their lives. One of my best friends is a quite irascible person who seemingly wallows in negativity, yet manages to live quite happily within that negative persona. Think about most long time city residents. They often have a tough (usually negative) exterior, yet live with each other. Make lemonade from your lemons.
  • For a quick and simple cure “in the moment,” put a really big smile on your face and hold it for at least a minute. Your body will release endorphins and make you feel better!!!
  • EFT/Tapping: About five different people suggested EFT. “Tap on acupressure points, add affirmations to release negative energy.” “I used it in combination with EMDR in therapy many years ago and was effective for me.” “I was going to suggest EFT too! Great stuff. I found it especially helpful with inner child (or in the case of my anger: inner teenager) work.”
  • Meditation at Tibet House or the ID project. Someone mentioned Sharon Salzberg…she occasionally does stuff at Tibet House.
  • We can only do. We cannot say, “I won’t think about x.” So pick something positive that you want to pay attention to for a while. : )
  • There is this book called The Four Agreements. It’s about having gratitude. Personally I think anger can be a good motivator for art so I don’t think it’s so bad as long as you’re not consumed by it.
  • How about boxing or kungfu?
  • I was thinking recently that if a person’s mind is filled with too many negative thoughts, then there are only really two things to do. The first is to think less, or quiet the mind (e.g. meditation). The second is to think more positive thoughts, in order to crowd out the negative ones. That’s just math!
  • I would be really happy to share about my 21 years of Buddhist practice.
  • Check podcasts from Josh Korda, Dharmapunx NYC and Brooklyn. Some of the best stuff I’ve come across—and he speaks my language.
  • You’re sitting on it. Walking is the way to move out of it. From what I’ve been told anger becomes depression; walking moves it out. Good luck. Let it go. Dance—I know that you like to!
  • Please read Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication. All the tools are there. Preview tip: Anger is OK until you express it in a judgmental or blaming way. As soon as you do that, you’ll put the other person on the defensive and your initial need (which wasn’t being met and which made you angry) will only be further out of your reach. Make observations without evaluations. Be aware of your needs and the feelings behind them and then learn the communications skills to skillfully articulate them. We were never taught this in school. This is the fundamental lesson which would change the world if applied globally. 
  • At various points in time I’ve found journaling helpful. I really liked some of the exercise in The Artist’s Way in particular.
  • The first step is to notice the negative thought, then smile at it, say “oh, you old friend,” and shift to something more positive. Nothing is more deflating to negativity than a little ho-hum.
  • I just heard this five minute video last night, tried it today and it works! Eckhart Tolle, Accept this Moment As If You Had Chosen It [How To Deflate Your Ego]

It’s such an outpouring of love. I’m so grateful to everyone who shared their wisdom, and with it, their love. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments.

Train of thought

I was on a slow train today. The 7 train crawled along from Flushing to Jackson Heights and I was late to my final destination. Inbound to the City (although no one I know uses that terminology here in NYC) the train was full. I ended up losing my seat when I switched to let a couple sit together, and then saw an old man going for the seat I was planning to occupy. I got a little grumpy for a moment, but it didn’t last long, and then at a major transfer point I got a seat anyway. On the trip home, there were very few travelers; the two that caught my attention were both so thin as to be gaunt, and each had a serious under-bite. One was black, one was white; both male. They were so similar and strange looking I could not help wondering about them, and how they both came to be on the same train.

At different times in my life I have been a regular rider on the NYC subway system, on Metro North to Connecticut, and on Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) as well. Every line and system has differences in culture as well as procedure. Commuting to CT for a few months in 1999, I was struck by how quiet the train riders were. They would silently read their folded NY Times in the morning and quietly drink their cocktails in the evening. It made me think of John Cheever and a much older time. From there I went to Long Island, and had a long commute, about 75 minutes on the train, plus a subway ride once in the City. LIRR riders drank too, but it was a different kind of drinking. There was a group of guys that played cards together every evening, taking down the big advertisement poster to spread over their laps in the rows of seats that face each other. In general, these trains were noisier. Especially when the Islanders had played. I was still commuting this way when 9/11 happened, and a lot of first responders and other people working down near Ground Zero would be on the train with me. I remember one woman who kept a small American flag in her purse. There were people with dusty boots, and I remember thinking about what that dust was comprised of, and feeling extremely humble and lucky.

People seem to like to complain about commuting by train. “Oh, the F Train sucks!!!” they would say, when I lived in Brooklyn. But over in Queens, they say the exact same thing about the N Train to Astoria. They complain about the slowness of the trains, the lack of seats, the unreliability, or about being a slave to a schedule. Me, I love the train. I love the smoothness of the seats, the rhythmic motion, the fact that you can see people from 30 different ethnic groups all wearing blue jeans. In New York, I love that the train will take you nearly anywhere, and well into the small hours of the night too. It may be hot, and smelly, and there may be rats and garbage on the tracks. There are those awful, phantom garbage trucks that show up at 1:30 am when you are desperate not to take a cab. On the suburban rails, there is that special rush to get a row of seats to yourself, the unspoken agreement that no one sits in the middle until they have to. There is the way that you can prop your knees up on the back of the seat in front of you. There is the evening cocktail too.

When I go out west, I get excited to still see long chains of freight trains chugging across the big stretches of land. I want there to be more. I long to hear that lonesome whistle cry.

I’m not immune to the nostalgia of the rails.

This was written in response to the Daily Post.

This is free writing…

Ok. Here goes. Sure, I’ll go back to fix spelling errors and obvious typos, but the challenge today is to free-write for 10 minutes. I have 19 minutes left in the day, so I best not waste time.

The last few days I have not written as much. First was the school break, which meant extra mom-time, and then my honey-honey was in town for a week (which was awesome!) so I was not spending my time writing. If you catch my meaning. It was great to have extra time with my daughter, and time with my sweetheart, but I missed the quiet morning time of writing. The new rhythm, when I am alone here in NYC, is that I take her to school, and am home by 8:15am. Then I write for about an hour, then call Peter, and for the next hour or so, we talk, run together (just a mile so far), and then we both get to work. I have four hours then to work before school pick-up time.

I hate getting up early, mostly because I stay up so late and it hurts my head to wake up when I am still tired, but once I am up, I am up. So, coming home from the school drop-off to a quite apartment with its cool morning light calms me. Sitting down to write in the morning is a new pleasure, one I was not quite disciplined enough to enjoy when I was in my early 30’s, the last time I was writing regularly. So, yeah, it has been a really long time. Really. Almost a decade. There was something about that life I was suddenly living, it did not seem compatible with a creative pursuit. I was dancing a lot, and learning about a new language, so there were other ways to stretch my brain. And I stopped spending time with practicing artists too, which was probably a big factor, now that I think about it. Right now, I am in a new phase of inviting artists back into my life, and that can’t be an accident.

Things are good now though… In the last several weeks, I have gotten two checks from the city, from whatever agency it is that refunds your money of you over-pay on traffic and parking tickets, and I also discovered $24 in my E-Z Pass account. And I got a contract for some writing and editing work. First time for that in a long, long time. It’s all good stuff. I am excited, positive. I look forward to the future, and to all the obstacles being cleared from my path. The writing is an integral part. Thanks for being my audience in this process.

This post was written in response to the Daily Post.

Free Write Delayed

Last week, I started writing here, using the Daily Post on WordPress as my inspiration. Then my kid had four days in a row off of school (Rosh Hashana and the weekend) and I didn’t write. But I was holding on to an idea to write about the Universe.

I read this amazing story on Vox about the Laniakea supercluster of galaxies, from a new study for Nature.

The way I look at it, the universe goes beyond our ability to comprehend. When I see some of those pictures, it’s like looking under a microscope. The last one shown in the Vox article looks like images of neurons and dendrites. It makes me wonder if we (you, me, Earth) ARE just a speck of dust on a flower, carried by a cartoon elephant.

My own particular concept of the Universe is a big part of my cosmology. I don’t exactly believe in God, and I don’t exactly not believe either. Once, I told a Greek Orthodox priest that I was sure I did not believe in the “old guy with a beard on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.” Father Nick was wise enough to ask what I did believe. “Love,” I said. “Or Energy.” I’m no scientist, but it just always seemed logical to me that the energy must be accounted for somehow. We are made up of energy. We have electricity running through us. So it must go somewhere when we die. From there I got to my idea of believing in Energy. Nowadays, the Universe is constantly giving me clues and dropping hints. Sure, sometimes I go looking, and I may indeed find just what I want to find. Other times though, these things align so neatly as to be irrefutable. I believe the Universe is guiding me. It wants good for me. It wants good for us all.

The still images captured from the Nature video are beautiful. Is it naive to believe that their beauty is a sign of the inherent goodness of the Universe? Maybe so. I am willing to risk being naive.

Along these lines, my mP3 player just summoned this for me.

Well, Golly…

Handle With Care

How are you at receiving criticism? Do you prefer that others treat you with kid gloves, or go for brutal honesty?

The truth is, I stink at it.
The truth is, I am great at it.
The truth is, I live for brutal honesty.
The truth is, I shrink from difficult conversations.
The truth is, I am my own best critic.
The truth is, I beat the crap out of myself on the inside.
The truth is, I usually know what the criticism is.
The truth is, I am really defensive sometimes. A lot of times.
The truth is, I hate to be told what to do.
The truth is, it takes me to a deep, dark place inside my psyche where resides the self that feels massive insecurity, worthlessness, and that it must bargain for any attention at all.

This exact issue is facing me right now in both my (romantic) relationship and my professional ones. I mean, RIGHT NOW. So, golly, how did the Daily Post know that?

Facing this thing requires me to go my core and look at the layers of buried stuff, so that I can keep unpacking the suitcases of my past. In that process, it’s way too easy to go straight to accepting that it’s “all my fault,” even when I know that fault and blame are hardly ever the real issue. My goal is to be able to acknowledge my responsibility without forgetting my essential humanity. That is really difficult.

I read this this morning in Elephant Journal, and it rang true for me. Some days are easier than others. It’s pretty cool that this writing opportunity presented itself on THIS day.

This is written in response to the Daily Post at

Litmus, Litmus on the Wall

Do you feel me?

The answer is, “Yes!”

I’m writing in response to a WP 9/23/14 writing prompt of the same name.

If you had to come up with one question, the answer to which would determine whether or not you could be friends with a person you’ve just met, what would it be? What would the right answer be?

It’s about connection. It’s a gut feeling, maybe a bit of chemistry. It happens pretty rarely these days, and in NYC, with busy lives, jobs, kids, and pre-existing social circles, it doesn’t often go anywhere, but it is still a great feeling when it happens.

Tonight I am having dinner with my best girlfriend. She is coming over and hanging with my kid and me, and that is so good. In NYC, this kind of home-cooked friendship is extra special.

I’m glad we got that connected kind of feeling when we did.